Considering the success that The Temper Trap’s debut album, Conditions, gained for the band, the pressure undoubtedly was on for their follow-up album- no one wants to fall victim to the dreaded “Second Album Syndrome”. While the expectations for the band’s sophomore album were high, rather than ride the coattails of “Sweet Disposition”, the band bravely veered from the sound they were aware was successful. With a new approach, The Temper Trap matured into a re-invention; with their self-titled sophomore album, The Temper Trap found their legs.
The album kicks off with its first official single, “Need Your Love”; an electronic infused track that immediately defines the tone for the remainder of the album and sets it apart from Conditions, which opened with traditional keyboarding and whimsical clapping. As the track progresses, the crashing drums alongside a buzzing synth line create an upbeat tempo that could be interpreted as cheerful, but is simultaneously dashed with melancholic lyrics like, “She has abandoned me on highways and desert blades/ Of lonely creatures singing for the summer rain,” and “And I am a war of flesh and heart that’s left undone/ Between the person that I was and have become”.
The band continues to experiment with unfamiliar themes in “London’s Burning”, a track inspired by the rioting occurring in London in 2011, as the band was based in Hackney- a city not far from the chaos. The sampling of broadcasts and the British Prime Minister’s voice weaving through the barreling drums and almost downtrodden lyrics push the cynical theme forward into the piano threshold of lonely “Trembling Hands”. The emotional lyrics continue- a complete diversion from the hopeful, dolefully optimistic lyrics we had experienced on Conditions. Even without prior knowledge of the heartache experienced by lead singer, Dougy Mandagi, the matured song-writing can be attributed instantly to the raw emotions generated by a break-up.
Although Mandagi has experienced vocal freedom up to this point in the new album, we encounter his falsetto wail- often compared to Thom Yorke- in “Miracle” and the album cracks wide open with the retro-synth driven, “Where Do We Go From Here”, showing the potential of a dance party anthem.
In early March, the track “Rabbit Hole” was released as the perfect teaser for the album- Mandagi’s familiar falsetto drifts through The Temper Trap’s trademark guitar riffs. It builds to climax and ends abruptly, leaving us wondering if this was a lost Conditions’ track. It’s hinted in this track that the band is testing new waters, but with its only slight diversion from traditional Temper Trap, there was no way to have foreseen the bold variations between the two albums.
Assuredly there will be fans disappointed by the lack of anthemic, sing-a-long tracks that Conditions flourished with, but the band proves they are capable of growth with this album; re-invention so early on in a band’s career is impressive. While the bold decision was made to abandon some of what created their successes to begin with, not everything was compromised. At the core of the album is The Temper Trap, all grown up.
Amanda “The Bearded Lady” Best
Here is the official video for “Need Your Love.”